Success and Youth Ministry

(This is a paper written in response to the question below. It is by no means an exhaustive treatment of the subject, nor does it include all of the different aspects of the desires of the youth minister. As experienced in ministry is gained and spiritual maturity is achieved, it should come as no surprise if the below issues discussed are changed.)

What does a successful youth group look like?

INTRODUCTORY THOUGHTS

The author of this response is currently a youth minister. He has been involved in youth ministry for over seven years, and holds a Bachelor of Christian Education. He received the call to ministry when he was fourteen, and has spent over half of his life working toward this goal.

Interesting, the concept of success in ministry is a unique one, regardless of the area (whether youth, adult, or children ministry).  Success is defined as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame; the correct or desired result of an attempt; someone or something that is successful: a person or thing that succeeds”.[1] It is the second definition, the “correct or desired result”, upon which a biblical idea of success is built.  The English word success appears eleven times in both the Old and New Testaments.[2] In all the instances found, success is defined by the second reference from Merriam-Webster. This is the basis for evaluating success (or lack thereof) of the youth ministry of Terranova Church. With this idea of what success is, it is important next to outline the desires or goals for the youth ministry. Then a proper examination of the success or failures of said ministry can be investigated.

THE DESIRED GOALS AND THE MEANS OF ACHIEVING THEM

One goal of the youth ministry of Terranova Church is to see spiritual development in the lives of both the youth and the youth ministry team. There are several avenues by which this is accomplished. Daily Scripture reading and prayer are the priority. In order to help facilitate growth and consistency, devotional guides are provided by the youth minister. These guides are written for two purposes: to provide a daily study for the teens to use in order to develop the godly habit; secondly to teach the students (and youth ministry team) how to study.[3] Included in the daily Scripture reading are five facets: prayer, read, study, meditate, and memorize. For the first week a sample prayer is included in order to help the teenager focus his or her mind on the God’s Word. The reading section lists a verse or verses to read. Then a list of questions are given for the student to answer.  A paragraph of meditative thoughts is provided next. Usually it includes a challenge or thought upon which to meditate for that day. Finally the guide concludes with a verse of Scripture to memorize. So both desired outcomes Scripture and prayer are accomplished, assuming the involvement of the student.

Another, more broad, method of developing the spiritual life of students and members alike is the weekly preaching of God’s Word. The youth minister prepares expository sermons, walking through with the teens certain books of the Bible.[4] Topical messages are utilized as well. However, the majority of the preaching takes place in a sequential manner working through specific books of the Bible. By preaching the Word of God, believers are encouraged, comforted, convicted, and provide the means by which they may experience God work in their hearts.  To the unbeliever, it is the means by which glorious conversion takes place.

The evaluation of this aspect is at once easy and difficult. It is easy because one simply asks the student if they have spent time in God’s Word and in prayer. It is difficult, because the student can be dishonest. It is also difficult because one can read and pray but have no heart in the matter. The easiest way to see success in this area is the change that will take place should the student or youth ministry team member implement this in their respective lives.

A second desire is ministry involvement. It is the desire of the youth minister (as well as Scripture) that students become involved in ministry, both in the church and out of the church. This is accomplished through several ways as well. It is vital for believers to be involved in ministry. It is equally important for students who are believers to be involved in ministry. Terranova Church provides many opportunities for youth to engage in ministry. Foreign and state-side missions’ trips are held regularly, and camps where students can help serve and minister are attended. Sunday morning worship is held by the students at varying times. The students lead the worship service every Wednesday. Projects, such as feeding the homeless and completing work at members and non-members houses, are completed.

Evaluating the success of this is rather easy, for it requires only sight to see the student completing one of the services mentioned above.[5] When the youth engage in worship, for Wednesday and Sunday, they appear in public. If they are working on cleaning up a non-member’s house you simply can look and see them accomplishing the task. While it is certainly impossible for every student to be involved in one aspect (such as leading worship), there are enough opportunities for them to serve.

A third goal for the student is to develop into a godly adult. The means mentioned previously are used to accomplish this goal. Furthermore, utilizing parents, college students, and young adults to provide examples and encouragements as to how a youth should develop into a godly adult are an excellent way to teach them. The example is taken from Titus 2.4 where Paul admonishes Titus to follow an age-facilitated training mode. This allows adults to plug into the church and minister as well as giving the students examples of what a godly life should look like.

This goal is a time-focused evaluation. Once the student has reached an age where they are considered an adult, if the student is living a godly life then there is success. If the student is not, the failure has been met. Of course this does not mean that the failure lies in the adult, for the student has his or her own responsibility to live the life that God has called the believer to live. However, it would be wise on the part of the adults and youth ministry team members to evaluate those involved in ministry as well as the means by which ministry is taking place. This will enable errors to be examined and replaced, as well as provide encouragement to those ministering by confirming the biblical foundations of said ministry.

Evangelism, whether local or global (which some choose to call missions) is another goal for the youth ministry at Terranova Church. Outreach services are held in order for students to bring their friends and family to hear the Gospel preached. This is the main method of reaching the lost: building relationships. In the estimation of the youth minister, door-to-door evangelism does not work as well as relational evangelism. Street preaching, though once an incredible method of bringing men and women into a saving knowledge of God, is now looked on by unbelievers as an act of madness.[6]

Success here is measured by several ways. When students bring their friends and family it is a success. Regardless of the acceptance or rejection of the visiting individual, success has been obtained.[7] When those individuals are brought by the good pleasure of God into the fold of His flock, success has taken place.

CONCLUSION

Success is a unique term, one that comes with a great deal of misunderstanding. When one adds into the discussion God and ministry, the confusion is almost baffling. However, a biblical understanding of success and its influence into the life of the church provides the youth ministry of Terranova Church the ability to set goals and see their accomplishments. Thus success is sought after and achieved, but this only by the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ.

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/success, v. success, accessed 4/12/2015

[2] Gen. 24.12; 27.20; Josh. 1.7-8; 1 Sam. 18.14-15, 30; Neh. 1.11; Job 5.12; Ps. 118.25; Pro. 3.4 all refer to success as achieving a desired goal. This will form the basis of success for the youth minister of this paper.

[3] This enables to students (and youth ministry team members) to learn what questions to ask, how to ask them, and where to find the answers. A similar devotional guide was provided for the youth minister when he was a teenager and they helped develop the habit throughout his life.

[4] Another benefit of preaching expository messages is that the devotional guides follow along with it. So the students spend a week in the section that will be preached on the coming Wednesday.

[5] Rather than reiterating what has previously been written, the assumption of a right heart will be carried through the remainder of this work.

[6] Many believers feel this way as well. Of course feelings alone should not determine the means by which the elect share the good news with the lost. However, God has given men reason to evaluate the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the available methods of fulfilling the Great Commission (Matt. 28.18-20).

[7] When one accepts the second definition provided by Merriam-Webster, success is the accomplishment of a goal. Having a teenager bring a friend for evangelistic purpose is the achievement of that goal.

Hebrew and Greek: A Great Help

So in an article put out by Crossway I recently read several suggestions of how to continue to use and develop Hebrew and Greek by ministers. This article gives a variety of suggestions that were incredibly beneficial. But one that I took and modified was memorizing vocabulary words. 

As I read through the Bible in the mornings, I normally proceed to my prayer time. But now, rather than going straight into my prayer time, I spend a few minutes working through flash cards of verses as well as words from Hebrew and Greek. I have stated out with three for each category, and as time permits I will add anywhere from one to three new words as I get them down. I know it isn’t much, but for right now it’s about do right now.

Another suggestion, and I haven’t been able to do quite yet, is to read my devotions from the original languages . While this would be amazing, I’m not yet that proficient. But for an aspiring Ph. D student, it’s an imperative!!

What are ways you continue to use the original languages throughout your busy life? I would love to here about your successes and failures.